The Pittsburgh Steelers may have had the idea in mind when they signed 32-year-old cornerback Patrick Peterson that he could help mentor some young defensive backs. That wouldn’t be why they signed him—he is a starter, and that’s what he’s being paid for—but if that was part of their reasoning, it would be news to him.
Not that he would be a surprise, or that he would even need to be told. As he told reporters yesterday during his introductory press conference, he fashions himself as something of a big brother as it is—because he is one. It’s not a hat he’s worn all his life.
“I love that role. I’m the oldest of five, so it’s kind of in my nature ever since I can remember”, he told reporters, via the team’s website. “They haven’t expressed any of that to me, but that’s just something that comes with me. No one has to tell me. ‘We think you should help this guy out’”.
With the Steelers seemingly unwilling to match Cameron Sutton’s price on the open market, they turned to Peterson, who said that he considered signing with Pittsburgh last offseason before opting to return to the Minnesota Vikings.
But most still expect the team to be heavily interested in the cornerback class during the 2023 NFL Draft. In addition to Peterson, they have only Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Arthur Maulet among notable cornerbacks currently under contract. James Pierre is now an unrestricted free agent after they elected not to place a restricted tender on him.
The most likely target if the Steelers were to use their first-round draft pick on the position would be Joey Porter Jr. out of Penn State. The son of former Steelers edge rusher Joey Porter, he is regarded as one of the top corners in the class along with Devon Witherspoon and Christian Gonzalez. Whether or not he will be on the board at 17 remains to be seen.
Whether they land a cornerback in the first round or not, however, they are very likely to find one at some point in the draft. And they’re going to want that young player to be brought along by the veterans in the room, which Peterson sounds happy to do.
“What I’ve done so far in my career, I feel like I have so much I can [pass] on to the next generation, and why would I want to hold onto that?”, he said. “I want to continue seeing guys play as long as they want, accomplish the goals that they set out for themselves. If there’s a nugget or any advice that I can give them, I’m all for it”.
In that respect, he is very similar to former Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who retired this past year. He was always eager to take on all the young players in his wing, and played a key role in Sutton’s development, who was drafted the year Haden signed with Pittsburgh.